Juan Villa / The Collegian.
After an emotional letdown last Saturday at Bulldog Stadium, Fresno State now has to face a â€œtrap gameâ€ against the Toledo Rockets.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a great challenge for our football team,â€ said Coach Pat Hill. â€œI expect it to be a very, very tough environment. I bet you will have a heck of a crowd and that will be good. We went through it at Rutgers and I think our team is used to playing in hostile environments. Toledo will be a stiff challenge for us.â€
Rockets share similarities with Bulldogs
Despite its 5-7 record from a year ago, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) opponent has a record thatâ€™s identical to the Bulldogs this season.
Toledo opened the year with a 41-16 loss against the Arizona Wildcats, but then bounced back in a big way by routing Eastern Michigan 41-17 last week.
â€œToledo is good. We watched them on film. They play hard but it will only be a trap game if we make it that way,â€ said senior tight end Bear Pascoe.
The thoughts of this game being a â€œtrap gameâ€ occurred when the Bulldogs schedule came out.
Toledo was considered Fresno Stateâ€™s weakest non-conference opponent, but a team to not take lightly.
And after Wisconsin put a damper on the Bulldogsâ€™ Bowl Championship Series (BCS) chances, the Rockets now have an opportunity to put the â€™Dogs in a deeper hole in the hunt for a BCS berth.
Rockets live up to name
The Toledo Rockets like to utilize their speed when they have the football, with an offense running three to four-receiver sets.
â€œTheyâ€™re a spread team, they throw a lot of quick screens, misdirection type plays, they try to spread you out and move the ball that way,â€ Hill said.
Cornerback Damion Owens will be one of the Bulldog defenders dealing with the speed of Toledoâ€™s offense, with the belief that the Rockets are faster than Wisconsin.
â€œI think they do [have more speed], but this is two totally different teams,â€ Owens said. â€œSo it will be interesting to see. Our defense played really well and we need to continue this for the rest of the season.â€
The Bulldogs have surrendered just two touchdowns so far this season, but Hill believes that Toledo is a threat to score anywhere on the field.
â€œThey will be a new challenge for our defense,â€ Hill said. â€œThey got a quarterback who can throw it; they got a good running back and a couple of good receivers. Offensively, theyâ€™ve been moving the football up and down the field.â€
Bulldogs still going strong
Offensively, the main issue for Fresno State will be getting things going in the first half.
â€œItâ€™s always important; past couple of weeks we started slow,â€ Pascoe said. â€œBut we got a chance this week to have some good practices and get us going and get us back on track and it will be a good thing to get going fast.â€
The Bulldogsâ€™ morale didnâ€™t seem to be broken after the Wisconsin game, but Owens and his teammates want to get back on track.
â€œWe are all back up again, there are no hangovers,â€ Owens said. â€œEverybody is back up, weâ€™re good. We want this real bad to show that the â€™Dogs are not down, weâ€™re still in it.â€
Hill also sees his team in a good mood despite the loss Saturday night.
â€œThey know whatâ€™s going on, we still got 10 games to go,â€ Pat Hill said. â€œWe lost a very big game, this game is a big one too this week and we just got to win this one. We got to learn our mistakes from the last game.â€
The last time Fresno State played the Rockets was in 2005, when Fresno State won 44-14 at Bulldog Stadium in the first ever meeting ever between the two teams.
This is the second time in three games that the Bulldogs are hitting the road, with Toledo being the first MAC opponent to host Fresno State in the Pat Hill era.
The Rockets are hosting a Top 25 team for the first time in four years when the No. 25 Bulldogs make their visit to the Glass Bowl.
â€œI know this: They will play at a high level in their home opener against us,â€ Pat Hill said.
The Fresno State athletic department had added multiple non-conference home and road for upcoming seasons.
The future schedules will feature multiple BCS opponents in games at both Bulldog Stadium and on the road.
The future games will include match ups between the Bulldogs and Mississippi, Colorado, Nebraska and Illinois. The schedule is currently set to have the BCS opponents play Fresno State spread out until 2014.
The series will feature all four opponents traveling to Fresno for one game and the Bulldogs traveling for two road games against the opponents.
The Bulldogs might be without key players for Saturdayâ€™s game in Toledo.
The Bulldogs were forced to play without two regular starters on the offensive line against Wisconsin and could still be short against Toledo.
Left guard Cole Popovich might be lost for the season with a quadriceps tendon injury, but the Bulldogs may have center Richard Pacheco back for the game.
He suffered a hamstring injury in the practices leading up to the Wisconsin game and the Bulldogs started Joe Bernardi at center.
Wide receiver Devon Wylie may not be ready for Toledo. He suffered a foot injury and information regarding his status has not been released.
Getting to know the Toledo Rockets
2007 Record: 5-7 (3-5 in Mid-American Conference play)
The story so far: Toledo fell to Arizona in week one by a score of 41-16, but rebounded nicely at Eastern Michigan last weekend with a 41-17 victory.
Impact Players: Offense – Wide receiver Stephen Williams – The 6-foot-5, 199-pound specimen was an all-conference pick in 2007 and provides a huge target in the passing game. Last weekend against Eastern Michigan, he caught two touchdown passes and leads the team with 115 yards receiving.
Defense – Strong safety Barry Church: Church is a two-time all-conference selection and can lay a hit. In Toledoâ€™s five-defensive back set he is the leader. He leads the team with 17 tackles.
The Buzz: Many circled this contest on the Bulldogsâ€™ schedule as a â€œtrap gameâ€ because it is sandwiched between two BCS-conference foes. This Saturday is Toledoâ€™s home opener and the Glass Bowl will be filled to capacity. Will the Bulldogs head into a downward spiral, or will they rebound with a victory?